Although they're mainly remembered as the
creators of the
legendary Simplex automobile, Smith & Mabley were better known in
for their pioneering work in the retail automobile business, having
of Manhattan's first imported automobile dealerships, at the turn of
Carlton* Raymond Mabley (1878-1963) was the
son of Christopher
Richards Mabley, whose Mabley & Co. chain became the Mid-West's
pre-20th century general merchandise retailer.
(*Depending on the source, Mabley's first
name is spelled
either Carlton or Carleton, so both spellings may appear below,
Carlton was the most frequent by a ratio of 2-1.)
Christopher Richards Mabley was born on Feb
22, 1836 in St.
Minver, Cornwall, England to William and Mary née
His first wife, Catherine, bore him at least 8 children of whom only
three girls survived to adulthood. Around 1875 he married Katherine
(with whom he had another 6 children) and in 1877 emigrated via Toronto
his father set up as a silk merchant) to America.
There he opened a chain of clothing stores
across Michigan (Pontiac,
Ionia, Flint, Detroit), Illinois and Ohio (Toledo,
Cleveland) which were so successful that he was soon able to commission
tallest building in Detroit (14 floors) as his flagship store
died in 1885 (June 30, 1885) before it could be completed. The building
renamed the Majestic Building by a new owner because of the
letter M's (for Mabley) carved into the stonework.
Joseph L. Hudson, the Detroit department
store baron who lent
his name to the Hudson Motor Co., started his career as a sales clerk
Mabley's Pontiac, Michigan department store, later serving as manager
Mabley's Detroit branch. In later years the competition between the
Company and C.R. Mabley was as bitter as the Macy's-Gimbels
rivalry in New
Carlton Raymond Mabley, the first son of
Richards Mabley and his second wife Katherine Morice Hull, was born in
on November 11th, 1878. After a public education and course of
engineering, Mabley took a position with the New York Telephone Co.
branching out on his own as an independent electrical contractor.
Mabley became acquainted with his partner,
Albert D. Proctor
Smith (b. 1868/1869), through his older sister Edith, who married Smith
Born in 1869 to Cornelius and Emma J. Smith,
Proctor Smith, was the son of a well-known provision broker at the New
Produce Exchange. Cornelius Smith (b. 1839), and his brother (Chas. H.
an office at 115 Broad St.
After attending college, A.D.P. Smith became
a member of the
Consolidated Stock and Petroleum Exchange, located at the southeast
Broad and Beaver Streets in the Wall St. financial district.
Business was successful and on June 23, 1902
Louise Christine Taylor (1880-1968), the daughter of banker George
Taylor and Eliza Maynard (Hollister) Taylor in Manhattan. During the
decades the blessed union would result in the birth of one daughter and
Located on the north side of
West Thirty-eighth street
(nos. 133-139), between Broadway and Seventh avenue, the Automobile
Storage Co. was Manhattan's first automobile garage, having been
organized in 1900
as a sales and service depot for the Winton automobile.
In addition to Smith & Mabley's
distributorship, at one time or another the Exchange housed Manhattan's
Electric, de Dietrich, Moline, Stearns and Winton distributorships.
The Exchange was highlighted in the January
19, 1901 issue
of Electrical World:
"A New 'Automobile Exchange' and
"The early years of the twentieth century
to witness a remarkable expansion in the automobile field. In fact, to
close observer it is already evident that the movement has acquired
considerable momentum, even at this early period. The increasing number
horseless vehicles, the rapidly growing number of repositories for
special care and storage, and the growth of interest in the subject
the general public, all tend to indicate the way the wind is blowing.
"One of the first of the new automobile
open its doors for business this century, and probably the most
finished one yet erected, is that just completed by the Automobile
Exchange & Storage Company, and which is located at 133-5-7-9 West
Thirty-eighth Street, New York City. The company, as its name
organized to store, charge, care for, sell, exchange and act as agent
manufacturers of all classes of automobiles. At present it has but the
exchange and storage depot, an exterior view of the front of which is
The company, intends, however, to increase the number of its storage,
and charging depots as fast as the volume of its business demands. It
already preparing to build a depot farther up town which will have more
four times the floor space now available in the one just completed.
station, it is expected, will be ready about May 1 next.
"The Thirty-eighth Street depot was built
for the use of the company. It covers a ground space of 100 ft. x 100
ft. It is
lighted from the top by several large skylights. The front of the
seen in the illustration, is largely composed of glass and oxidized
which gives a very pleasing effect. This arrangement makes a
and light depot. Later another story will be added, which will increase
available floor space to 20,000 sq. ft. The building is divided into
sections by hardwood partitions. One part is devoted to a reception
visitors. This room is comfortably furnished and its tables are
all the latest periodicals on automobiles. Back of the reception room
offices and back of these are some 60 or more lockers for the use of
who keep vehicles in the building. In another corner is a machine shop,
furnished with a lathe, drill press, emery wheel, work bench,
where repairs can be made. An air compressor and storage tank are also
in the machine shop. The compressed air is used to supply the required
in the gasoline tanks of steam vehicles. Power is supplied to the
air compressor by means of a S-hp General Electric motor.
"Artificial light is supplied by enclosed
incandescent electric lights. Every precaution has been taken in the
construction of the building to eliminate the possibility of fire, and
efforts of the company have been rewarded by the unqualified approval
board of fire underwriters. This makes it possible for patrons to get
lowest fire insurance rate on their vehicles.
"Another feature is the space in the front
building set apart for the permanent exhibit of new vehicles by
This space is divided off by brass railings. The company is prepared to
care of, store, charge and repair all kinds of automobiles, both for
and business use. It makes a specialty of keeping a line of slightly
automobiles of various makes on hand for sale at greatly reduced prices.
"A wash stand for vehicles, some 18 ft. by
21 ft., is
provided; also three charging boards for electric vehicles. At each of
boards four electric vehicles can be charged at the same time. Each
equipped with four Queen-Wirt ammeters having a capacity up to 150
current is supplied from the mains of the Edison Illuminating Company's
three-wire system. In short, the depot is most complete in all respects.
"The officers of the company are: A. P.
president; Andrew Morison, vice-president; Morris Putnam Stevens,
treasurer; E. S. McCool, manager; J. O. MacDonald, superintendent;
Smith, chief of electrical department."
The March 1901 edition of The Auto Review:
"The& Automobile Exchange & Storage
Co. have one of the most handsomely furnished repositories in the
133 to 139 West Thirty-eighth street, New York City. The company stores
charges, cares for sells, exchanges, and acts as agent for
all kinds of automobiles, and they are already conducting a large and
expanding business in the new department specially built for the
is 100 feet square. There is a handsome reception-room, and a machine
furnished with an air compressor for supplying pressure required in the
gasoline tank of steam vehicles. A space in the front of the building
as a permanent exhibit of new vehicles. A washing room for vehicles and
charging board for electromobiles are provided."
The November 2, 1901 issue of Automobile
Topics gave a
review of the exhibits at the upcoming New York Automobile Show at
"MESSRS. SMITH & MABLEY of New
make a specialty of imported French carriages, will exhibit
most recent importations. Among these there will be one 8 hp. Peugeot
one 12 hp. Panhard Break, one 7 ½ hp. Panhard Tonneau and one
Voiturette. Possibly there will also be another Renault Voiturette in
of a phaeton with rumble. The Renault vehicles it will be remembered
light carriages which made a remarkable record at the Paris-Berlin race
competition with machines of much higher power."
By that time the firm was distributing
Levassor, Peugeot and Renault which necessitated a move to larger
513-515 Seventh Ave. between 37th and 38th streets.
The November 23, 1901 issue of Automobile
the firm's latest business venture, the manufacture of the so-called
"An Account by a European Visitor
"RETURNED to France after their brief visit
country Messrs. Charron and Girardot, the two noted racing men and
manufacturers' agents, have expressed their opinions of things
this country. Girardot is quoted by his friend Georges Prade in La Vie
Air, and some of the remarks are suggestive by their tone, others by
inaccuracy. But the French have a proverb which says that accuracy is
of fools. Extracts of Mr. Girardot's narrative run as follows:
"There was some customs duties to attend to.
At 45 per
cent, ad valorem they amount to something. There is no tomfoolery with
American customs officers, and those fellows know now, within a hundred
dollars, the price of our engines.
"We were not, however, inconvenienced very
long by this
outlay. Our vehicle was soon snapped up, and its happy owner, Mr.
the bagatelle of $15,000 (75,000 francs) for it."
"You know that some doubt has been raised in
regard to this price," interposed Mr. Prade.
"Tell the skeptics," said Girardot, "that we
know just what we talking about and are prepared, if necessary, to
"The agency was quickly established and
placed in the
hands of Messrs. Smith & Mabley, who immediately found us
in all the cities of the Union. Within ten days we also found a dream
factory for the construction of our motors."
Speaking of the Endurance Contest, the
second " of many races continues: "We went with Charron to the start
of this monster test, and it seemed to me, when I saw all those bizarre
monstrous machines, that we had been taken back seven years and that we
Porte Maillot assisting at the start of the Paris-Rouen.
"Of 80 vehicles which started 30 arrived at
terminus of the test; and that was another surprise to me.
"The victory perched on Mr. Bishop who drove
Panhard machine which Mr. Hearth had in the Paris-Berlin race. The
been raised a little, but otherwise the vehicle was unchanged.
"I saw on that occasion my own old Panhard
of 8 hp.,
which here found many admirers who refused to believe it was only an 8
machine since it regularly beat all the 12 hp. opponents. It was with
vehicle that I finished second in the Paris-Amsterdam and in the Nice
won the Perigord cup.
"But what a decadence! Its new owner had
with solid rubber tires at least as large as the 120mm. pneumatics, and
weighed in this way 1760 pounds more. No wonder, therefore, that when
tackled the first hill its valorous motor, spite of a terrible effort,
acknowledge defeat almost immediately, and it was found necessary to
around and repair to the storage stable!"
The March 22, 1902 issue of Automobile
"O. H. P. Belmont has bought a 40
Panhard-Levassor machine from I. Newton Brown, Jr., of
Exchange and Storage Company in New York."
As Smith & Mabley had already moved into
facility, a leased 50 ft. x 100 ft. garage located at 513-519 Seventh
Thirty-Eighth Street, it's likely the Panhard in question was either a
or old stock the partners left behind.
In fact things had changed drastically at
the Exchange as
recorded in the "Trade Changes, Dissolutions, Removals, Etc." column
of the Feb. 1, 1903 issue of Cycle & Automobile Trade Journal:
"Automobile Exchange and Storage Co.,
Thirty-eighth street. New York city, is now under the management of J.
Robertson, who is president of the company. Rodney K. Harris is
R. E. Jarrige has charge of the foreign vehicle department."
As business grew the distributorships
originally housed in
the Exchange had left to establish their own facilities and the firm
imported car service center and used car dealer. Its listing in the
International Motor Cyclopedia follows:
"Automobile Exchange & Storage Co.
W. 38th St., New York City. Dealers in second-hand foreign and American
Est. 1900. Cap. $100,000. John H. Robertson, Pres. and Gen. Mgr.; E. J.
Sec; Geo. H. Robertson, Treas.; Geo. H. Robertson, Mgr. garage and
Ed. Soper, Mgr. repair dept.; Wm. Sherwood, Mgr. office. Garage (73
a specialty of overhauling and repairing Mercedes, Renault, C. G. V.
Panhard cars, with complete list of parts for same."
An April 27, 1902 New York Times display ad
lists the firm's
products as 'the new' C.G.V., Peugeot, Renault and Panhard-Levassor. A
1902 advertisement in the same paper lists Panhard-C.G.V. (new type);
and The Renault.
The Marienfeld was a little-known automobile
between 1899 and 1902 by directors of Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft in
Berlin suburb of Marienfeld with the erstwhile approval of Gottlieb
Following his death in 1902 the firm - Motorfahrzeug und Motorenfabrik
AG. - was absorbed by Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft and the factory
over to the manufacture of Daimler commercial vehicles. It is unknown
& Mabley actually sold or delivered any Marienfelds, despite the
of the advertisement. Ads in subsequent issues of the Times spelled it
It was during that time that the partners
acquired a license
to manufacture the C.G.V., a high-end French chassis manufactured in
France by Automobiles Charron-Girardot-Voigt. During 1902 and 1903
& Mabley's C.G.V. Company of America assembled a handful of
C.G.V.'s in a leased Rome, New York factory that formerly housed the
The February 26, 1902 Horseless Age reported
on the firm's
Proctor Smith, Carlton Mabley, Emerson Brooks,
Reick and Jerome B. Haynes have incorporated the Charron, Girardot
Company of America, with $500,000 capital, $100,000 preferred and
common stock. The principal office of the company is at Monticello,
County, N. Y., and the place of business is at 713 Seventh avenue, New
city, where Smith & Mabley have heretofore done
under that name."
It's interesting to note that Emerson Brooks
Quinby at the time and would later establish his own coach building
Brooks-Ostruk, in 1917. The April 5,
1902 issue of Automobile Topics reported on more details of the C.G.V.
"MORE FRENCH INVASION
"Until sometime last year the firm of
& Voigt, of Paris, were manufacturers' agents for the sale of
Levassor automobiles, sharing the right to sell these vehicles with the
concern. In course of the year Messrs, Charron and Girardot, who are
racing men, and who became known to many New York automobilists by
that city at the time of the New York-Rochester contest, devised an
construction of their own, procured a factory and subsequently
several vehicles of their own make at the Paris Automobile Show in
"This firm, it has been commonly rumored,
financial support of Mr. Gordon Bennett, the owner of the New York
has done a great deal to introduce French vehicles in the United States
commendatory articles in his publication.
"According to his paper, the arrangements
the new vehicles here have reached an advanced stage. The report of the
reads as a manufacturers' announcement. It says in part:
"Mr. Voigt has completed arrangements
reproductions of the models of vehicles built by his company in France
simultaneously turned out in the United States.
"The American automobiles will be built in
factories of the Rome Locomotive Works, at Rome, N. Y., which already
equipped for this purpose. For the manufacture of the American vehicles
Charron, Girardot & Voigt Company of America has been incorporated
Albany, with a capital of $500,000. $100,000 in preferred and $400,000
common stock, all of which has been subscribed.
"Mr. H. Monkhouse, of Rome, who is president
locomotive company, is also president of the automobile company. Mr. A.
Smith, of Yonkers, is the vice-president, and Mr. C. R. Mabley, of New
the secretary and treasurer. The business offices of the company will
located in this city.
"The vice-president and secretary-treasurer
the firm of Smith & Mabley, the American distributing
the Panhard-Levassor automobiles. In this capacity they realized the
impossibility of meeting the American demand for French-built motor
and entered into the negotiations with MM. Charron, Girardot &
have resulted in the establishment of the factory in this country.
"M. Voigt, who concluded the negotiations
for his firm,
brought to this country a staff of engineers and workmen from his
factories, who will superintend the construction of the American
These experts are now at work with a large force of American workmen at
Rome factories, and it is announced that the first of their product
ready for the market in July.
"The character of the Charron, Girardot
automobile may be judged by the fact that the entire output of the
factories for this year has been sold in advance of construction. Some
engineers have said that it is two years in advance of other models,
several prominent racing chauffeurs have ordered machines exactly
those to be built here, for entry in European speed and endurance
"The American machine, like its French
be built in one pattern chassis, or working body, and will be fitted
style of overbody in vogue. The chassis will weigh seventeen hundred
'the complete vehicle less than two thousand pounds. The selling price
chassis will be $4,000, and with ordinary tonneau, phaeton or wagonette
the cost will be from $5,000 to $5,500. Aluminum will enter largely
construction of the completed vehicle.
"The chassis will be equipped with a
gasolene motor of fifteen horse power, capable of a maximum speed of
to forty-five miles an hour. The cylinders are in one casting, without
joints, thus preventing leakage. Hot water circulation around the
maintains an even temperature of gas in cold weather. A single bolt
the inlet and exhaust valves from the top.
"The suspension of the rear frame is by
one being a cross spring permitting transverse and longitudinal swing.
are four speed gears, with reverse shaft, free wheel starting gear,
besides the hand brakes, a metallic foot brake that is always centered
requires no adjustment."'
The January 14, 1903 issue of the Horseless
Smith & Mabley would also be producing an 'American'
"Negotiations have been completed
by Smith &
Mabley, New York, with M. A. C. Neubauer, American representative
Panhard & Levassor Company, of France, whereby they secured the
agency in this country for the Panhard automobile. The parts will be
and assembled in a factory, a site for which near New York is being
together with the bodies, which will be built by J. M. Quinby &
Newark. N. J. The output will bear the name plate of the Panhard &
No further evidence of the operation was
although Quinby is recorded as bodying seven of Smith & Mabley's
C.G.V.'s. The total number of 'American' C.G.V.'s actually construct is
debate. Three is the figure most often reported by encyclopedias and
the like although
one source claims "196 were built during 1903" although that seem
more in line with the entire output of C.G.V's Puteaux and US factory,
assume that the actual number produced in Rome, N.Y. is likely closer
to 7 than
3 or 196. None are known to exist.
At the beginning of 1903 the Electric
Vehicle Company began
prosecuting importers that had yet to join the A.L.A.M. (Association of
Licensed Automobile Manufacturers), with the February 4, 1903 issue of
Horseless Age reporting:
"It is reported that a number of automobile
manufacturers have agreed to pay royalties to the Electric Vehicle
Hartford, Conn., for infringement of the Selden patent, and that a suit
been brought against Smith & Mabley, New York, importers
French and German cars, for alleged infringement."
Smith & Mabley was singled out due to
their position as
Manhattan's largest and best-known importer
of European automobiles, in effect
warning those manufacturers that selling an automobile in the United
without a Selden license could prove costly.
On April 15, 1903 Smith & Mabley settled
with the Electric
Vehicle Co. / (A.L.A.M.) who consequently dropped the suit, and
$1,500 of the fees incurred by the partners during their defense. The
A.L.A.M. arrangement gave the organization 1¼ % of the retail price of
sold in addition to a $2,500 membership fee, the first $1,000 of the
being pre-paid. The terms of the settlement were publicly reported in
22, 1903 issue of The Horseless Age:
"Smith & Mabley Acknowledge Selden
"The suit brought against Smith &
importers, of New York city, by the Electric Vehicle Company for the
infringement of the Selden patent, has been settled out of court, and
former concern has been granted a license by the Association of
Automobile Manufacturers. The suit had aroused unusual interest in the
because it was expected to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt just what
the association had under the Selden patent. Defendants acknowledged
The importance of this settlement will be appreciated when it is
that Smith & Mabley are the first of the importers to
association. The action of Smith & Mabley carries with it
acknowledgment of the Charron, Girardot & Voigt Company, which they
From that point on a 1¼ % A.L.A.M. licensing
fee was paid by
Smith & Mabley for every new car sold by the firm, regardless of
country of origin. A.D. Proctor Smith subsequently became president of
the Importers' Branch of the A.L.A.M., who remained a force in the
industry until 1911 when action by Henry Ford and others invalidated
of George B. Selden's 1895 patent.
The February 11, 1903 issue of The Horseless
Smith & Mabley were exhibiting at the 1903 Chicago Auto Show.
Advertisements dating from the summer and fall of 1903 state the firm
selling the French-built Mors automobile in addition to C.G.V.,
Panhard-Levassor and Renault.
The partners soon discovered that fewer and
fewer of their
patrons were interested in paying the 50% import duty* imposed on their
imported chassis, so they embarked upon the manufacture of their own
European-style American automobile in 1904.
(*The Dingley Act of 1897 put a
50% duty on all
imported goods, including automobiles and their component parts. The
reduced to 45% by the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909, which remained
effect until 1913 when the Underwood Tariff Act reduced the duty on
chassis (but not complete cars or automobile bodies) to 30%.)
The partners' C.G.V. Company of New York had
undertaken assembly of the "American" Charron-Girardot-Voigt in Rome,
New York, so they felt they held the needed experience to manufacture
car, which could be sold without the outrageous 45% import duties that
hurting sales of their imported lines.
Closely based on Wilhelm Maybach's
successful 18/22 hp
Mercedes, the Smith & Mabley chassis was designed by Gustave E.
1874-d.1924) and christened Simplex in honor of its German cousin. The
were able to import many of the required parts and raw materials from
firms (Krupps, etc.) that supplied them to Mercedes.
In those early days it was difficult to find
mechanics with experience in the field, but Smith & Mabley were
in acquiring the services of Franquist who had previously designed a
self-propelled carriage for the Buffalo Spring & Gear Co.,
one-cylinder two-cycle engine.
The January 21 1904 issue of Motor Age,
following description of the debut of the Simplex at the Madison Square
"The salon d' automobiles was so crowded
with cars and
packed with people in the limited space left for visitors that moving
difficult and a close inspection of what the importers had to show
"Toward the middle of the evening a
created by the arrival at the Smith & Mabley booth of
what A. D.
Proctor Smith claimed to be the first French car to be built in
America. It was
made at the firm's factory in this city and has been baptized
& Mabley Simplex. It has a racing body finished entirely in
aluminum with brass trimmings. The engine is the same as that which
Vingt-et-Un motor boat so marvelously fast on the Hudson."
"Smith & Mabley — Among the
Renaults and other well-known French machines exhibited and sold
& Mabley, is an 18-horsepower car of their own construction.
comprises a four-cylinder motor chassis, which weighs complete 2,800
and which may be equipped with various style bodies, being capable of
passenger bodies of from two to seven people. The wheel base is 91
the tread 53 1/4 inches. The frame is 114 inches long with a
space of 35 by 79 inches. The motor is hand and foot throttled and is
be capable of running from 200 to 1,200 revolutions, its normal speed
800. The water circulating system in eludes an up-to-date honeycomb
The carbureter is of the newly popular form in which the proportion of
gasoline is supposed to be automatically regulated by the varying speed
The same issue also made reference to the
fact that Smith
& Mabley were no longer distributing the C.G.V. automobile:
"Smith & Mabley, in a circular
letter to the
press, call attention to the fact that the concern has no connection
with the Charron, Girardot & Voigt Co., of America or of France,
not had for several months."
The March 3, 1904 issue of Motor Age
contained the following
description of the firm's display at the Madison Square Garden's
which was fitted with the firm's new Simplex engine:
"The great attraction of the Smith
Mabley exhibit, located at the foot of the tank, is, of course,
Vingt-et-un, for which a speed of nearly 25 miles an hour is claimed.
has been printed about this boat that all are eager to see her. A
mahogany model of a 30-mile launch is shown, also the design of the
for the match between this company and the F. I. A. T. The Vingt-et-un
afloat, with engine running and propeller turning, and at times is
taken out on
the tank, though, of course, very carefully run. The hull is of
shiplapped, built by Thomas Fearon, of Yonkers. The motor is placed
the helmsman sits just abaft it with steering wheel, starting crank and
levers close under his hands, while there is a cockpit aft for five or
persons. The motor is the new Simplex, built for both car and boat
firm will soon have out the first of its special marine type, of
The March 17 issue of the Motor announced
"Smith & Mabley will begin to
automobiles and boats in May. The former will be of 22-horsepower model
latter will run from 30 to 75-horsepower."
In addition to the 1904 New York and Chicago
shows, the firm also exhibited at the Boston Auto Show which was held
city's Symphony Hall. The March 24, 1904 issue of The Motor reported:
"There was a considerable exodus of the
local trade to
the Boston show last week. Among those to visit the Hub's exposition
exhibits directly and through local agents were: C. H. Tangeman, of
& Tangeman, importers of the Fiat; C. R. Mabley and C. H. Hamilton,
of Smith & Mabley, manufacturers of the Simplex cars and
and importers of the Panhard and Renault; Mr. Kimball and Mr. Moody, of
Central Automobile Co., importer of the Napier, Mors and V. & D.;
A. LaRoche and A. L. Picard, of the American Darracq Automobile Co.,;
Birdsall, of the Standard Automobile Co., whose Boston agent showed the
Decauville, and E. J. Willis, sundry jobber and agent for the Orient
in this city. All reported satisfactory business done."
The following tidbit could be found in the
"Smith & Mabley, of New York, are
a little story about the foreign-looking aspect of the S. & M.
telling how it puzzles even expert mechanics." The story is printed on
brown paper like that used by country grocers a few years ago when they
sugar for the farmer's wife."
The April 14, 1904 Motor Age claimed Smith
guaranteed the performance of its motor launches as follows:
"Smith & Mabley, of New York,
makers of the
Vingt-et-Un, have taken hold of the question of rated and actual boat
a vigorous and commendable manner, by drawing a contract with the
a boat whereby the latter is released from accepting the boat ordered
returned his deposit, if it does not make the minimum guaranteed speed
actual trial on a measured course."
The May 5, 1904 issue of The Motor Age
"The first lot of Smith &
boats will be in the water by the end of the month. Delivery of Simplex
automobiles will begin the middle of June. The company has established
addition to its regular Panhard and Renault lines a Mercedes connection
adding a considerable factor to its importations."
After their failed experiment importing the
automobile, the partners decided to import the real thing as reported
May 12, 1904 issue of The Motor Age:
"Mercedes on Hand—The first two of the
1904 Mercedes secured by Smith & Mabley, of New York,
arrived and were on view at their garage last week. Others will follow
regular weekly shipments, enabling orders to be filled within 10 days.
"Husky Italian Immigrants—An Italian steamer
Wednesday had on board consigned to Hollander & Tangeman, of New
60-horsepower Fiat of international cup race type and also several
engine for the boat which is matched against the Smith &
Mabley Simplex was also on board."
Smith & Mabley were equally well-known
high-speed racing launches (aka automobile boats) that competed in
powerboat regattas on the East Coast in the early part of the 20th
Early automobilists were interested in
applying the gasoline
engine wherever possible, and the partners are credited with mating the
American-built vertically-oriented automobile engine into a
Between 1904 and 1906, the firm's motor launches received as much press
their Simplex automobiles.
Records for the 1903-1904 season indicate
there were at
least 3 different Smith & Mabley 40' launches designed by Clinton
Crane that were powered by 150hp Simplex motors.
Smith & Mabley-built boats included the
Dixie, Vingt-et-Un I, Vingt-et-Un II and Simplex I through Simplex VIII
- all of
which competed in the high-speed boat class, many of them winning motor
and rodeos between 1903 and 1908. A.D. Proctor Smith and his
friends (William K. Vanderbilt jr. and W. Gould Brokaw) were obsessed
motor launch racing and Smith & Mabley maintained their own launch
the East River at Astoria, Queens, adjacent to Roosevelt Island.
The March 12, 1904 issue of Scientific
mention of an earlier Smith & Mabley vessel:
the Smith & Mabley 31-foot racing launch equipped with a
13/16 x 5 1/2 American-built Mercedes motor, and a 16-inch three-blade
propeller of about 28 pitch – (is competing) for a valuable cup trophy.
The Vingt- et-Un, it is claimed, made a mile on the Hudson River,
November 5 last, and with the wind and tide, in 2 minutes 26 seconds.
rated at 18-horse-power, but her builders declare she will develop 22.
weight complete at the time of the trial was 850 pounds."
A.D. Proctor Smith was not the only
infatuated with the motor boat, Detroit's Gar Wood and Henry Irving
built their own racing boats and piloted them to numerous racing
The July 2, 1904 issue of the Automobile
detailed article describing Smith & Mabley's boat-building
their plans to win the Harmsworth Cup:
"American Harmsworth Cup Challenger.
"Details of Construction of Auto Boat
Challenger Built by
Smith & Mabley for International Power Boat Race.
"THE auto boat Challenger was
completed in the shops of Smith & Mabley on the East
in New York, Saturday last, and was subsequently turned up so as to be
racing condition in time for shipment to take part in the Harmsworth
The Challenger was designed by Naval Architect C.
H. Crane, of
New York, and was built in the new Smith & Mabley automobile
the main floor of which is at present being used as a boat shop. The
auto boat L'ingt-et-Un II was previously launched from the
place, and there is also a third boat nearly completed, a speed boat of
over all with a 75-horsepower motor, for M. C. Hermann.
"Nearly all American auto boats designed
with a view to
speed are of one of two types, with a sharp V-section to the entire
the run, as followed by the Herreshoffs in many torpedo boats and the
well-known speed launches Vamoose, Javelin,
Mirage and Scout,the
after end of the load water line running to a point; or the so-called
"torpedo stern" type used in the Mosher
boats Ellide and Arrow,the Leighton and many other fast
Mr. Crane's studies have led him to follow a modified type, that
the noted French naval architect, J. A. Normand, one of the recognized
authorities on torpedo boats and whose ideas of construction have been
in some of the torpedo boats of the U. S. navy.
"The new Harmsworth cup challenger is of the
general type as the Standard and the French
boat Lutece, designed by Tellier. As the limit is 40 feet
length, the new boat has a plumb stem, a hackmatack knee faced with
and brought to a fine edge, the depth from bottom of keel to deck being
apparently about 3 feet 6 inches. There is a deep square forefoot, the
running along straight to the midship section and then rising gradually
it meets the sharp angle of the transom at a depth of several inches
water. There is apparently a good amount of freeboard, the sides
flaring out at
the bow and to a point abaft the midship section and then tumbling in
deck ends in a sharp point at the angle of the transom. The load water
seems rather full forward, but the breadth is carried very far aft,
long but not specially fine entrance, and this breadth is then held
the transom. The transom is vertical, but instead of being square like
of a box it shows two vertical bevelled faces, the horizontal section
flat V. The forward sections are round, deep and quite full below
an easy flare above to the deck, these growing into a midship section
quite a marked deadrise, the bottom slightly rounded and merging into
bilge and flaring topside. All the after sections are of flat V form
out to the
transom, the round just below the waterline and again in the topsides
them approximately of elliptical form toward the extreme after end. The
form of the boat is fair, with no lumps and hollows, such as are
most "whittled" models, and the lines are round and full rather than
excessively fine. As befits the large and powerful motor which she
boat is able and powerful in model, with a moderate amount of wetted
for her displacement.
"The forward deck shows a well-crowned
there is a single long cockpit with a flat after deck. The motor, of
ISO-horsepower, already described in The Automobile of
is about 8 feet long over all, the after end being a little abaft the
the hull. Here there is a bulkhead of i-8-inch bronze, lightened by
circular holes from four to six inches in diameter where strength is
"This bulkhead is stiffened by several small
angle bars. Just ahead of the flywheel, on the forward end of the
motor, is a
similar bulkhead so cut away to admit of the removal of the flywheel as
really two deep web frames, also stiffened by angles. Running fore and
raking upward at their fore ends are two built-up channel beams about 6
deep, and two feet apart, their after ends secured to the bulkhead and
end to each of the web frames. The weight and strain of the motor is
entirely on these channel beams and from them transferred to the
bulkhead and half-bulkhead
and thence to the hull proper.
"The keel is of oak, rabbeted for the
is of 6 inch mahogany below the waterline and white cedar of the same
above. The frames are spaced about 6 inches on centers, every third one
deep frame, about 1 3/4 by 1/2 inch, with the two adjoining frames,
each about 1/2
inch square. Inside each seam is laid a fore-and-aft ribband of oak or
hard wood, about 1 inch wide and 3/16 inch thick, thus making a lap of
on each plank, to which it is well fastened. These ribbands run under
frames, which are jogged to fit over them. There is a light shelf,
about 1 by 2
inches, and one bilge stringer of about the same dimensions, on each
forward deck is of thin wood covered with painted canvas. The coaming
inches from the gunwale and is of mahogany, about 6 inches high.
"The motor occupies the greater part of the
half of the cockpit, but there is ample space for one man to stand just
the fore deck. Here, forward of the flywheel, are located the rotary
pump, for circulation and clearing the bilge, the two rotary oil pumps
crankcase and cylinders, and the air pump, also rotary. About two feet
the middle bulkhead is a second bulkhead of mahogany, making a place
engineer, and abaft this is a cockpit about 4 feet long, for the
steering is thus done from a point well aft in the boat, clear of much
spray and with every chance to hold the boat steady by a long sight
stem on an open course. The wheel is of the car type on a vertical
"The mechanism for cranking the motor
consists of a
long shaft on the starboard side of the motor, carried on two brackets
channel frames, the fore end fitted with a sprocket and chain
another sprocket on the main shaft which carries pawls engaging in a
wheel connected with the flywheel. A crank on the after end of the
shaft is operated by the engineer. The reversing gear is large and
with four heavy beveled drums of hide, it is also operated by a crank,
and sprocket from the engineer's cockpit.
"The motor is placed slightly to starboard
centerline, the shaft is of steel, about 1 1/4 inches in diameter,
supported by a short bracket just outside the hull and a longer one
forward of the wheel. The bearings in both of these brackets are
lubricated by tubes from inside the hull passing down through the
"The rudder is hung outside the hull at the
apex of the
V transom, the stock is of forged bronze with a blade formed of two
of bronze riveted together on the edges—the construction generally
racing 20 and 25 footers. The boat builders have turned out a beautiful
of work, the hull being fair throughout and perfectly smooth; the
finished in copper bronze and the topsides in white enamel.
"Though the Smith & Mabley factory at
the foot of
East Eighty-third street, New York, is built on the river, the
such that the boat could not be launched at that point. A cradle of
timbers was built under the craft, and the whole placed on a truck and
to a pier at the foot of East Ninety-sixth street. Here a huge marine
was in readiness. The boat was placed in a double loop of heavy rope,
coming just forward and the other just aft of the motor space, and was
clear of the truck, swung across the deck of the derrick scow and
dropped into the river on the other side, the whole operation taking
couple of minutes after the sling had been adjusted. Extreme care was
in handling the racer, as the motor weighs 1,800 pounds, while the hull
little, if anything, over 900 pounds."
Smith's hopes of winning the Harmsworth
trophy in the
Challenger were momentarily dashed after a July 6, 1904 mishap,
reported in the
July 7, 1904 issue of The New York Times:
"GASOLINE EXPLODES ON AUTO BOAT CHALLENGER
"Flier Was Having a Speed Trial on Bowery Bay
"Occupants Leap Overboard
"Boat Will Be Repaired in Time to Go Abroad
to Race For
The Harmsworth Cup
"An explosion of gasoline in the fast
the Challenger, yesterday, came within an ace of damaging the
badly as to prevent sending her to Europe this week to compete on July
the Harmsworth Cup. The boat was being tried in a speed test in Bowery
adjacent parts of the East River when a quantity of gasoline that had
from the pipe connecting the gasoline tank with the motor exploded in
bottom of the boat directly beneath the engines. Three men were in the
the time, Clinton H. Crane, the yacht designer, who designed the hull
the Challenger; Carlton R. Mabley of the firm of Smith &
automobile manufacturers, and the builders of the boat, and a mechanic.
were uninjured, although as soon as the gasoline exploded, sending a
flash of fire in the air, the occupants leaped into the water. The boat
was about 200 feet off the pier at North Beach.
"The ferryboat Bronx was just
pier for East One Hundred and Thirty-fourth Street, but at the noise of
explosion and the sight of the three men leaping into the water the
the ferryboat drew up to the swimming men and they were pulled aboard
crew. The fire hose of the ferryboat was then brought out, and running
to the burning automobile boat, a stream of water was turned upon the
hull, and in a short time the flames were extinguished. The boat was
by a launch to the Smith & Mabley boatbuilding shops, at the foot
"Mr. Mabley said last night that he could
the exact nature of the accident, but the cause of the leak will be
investigated today. Mr. Crane looked the hull over after the flames
out, and stated that the boat was not seriously damaged, and that, with
alterations, she can be shipped to England on Saturday, as originally
The interior woodwork was badly scorched, and some of the beams will
have to be replaced. The boat had done very well before the accident,
fully up to the expectations of her designer and builder, having made
stretch five miles in eleven minutes. it is stated that the boat is
able to do
twenty-eight statute miles an hour, which would be better than any
boat has yet done. The fastest boat abroad has done about twenty-five
hour, while the Standard, which holds the American record, has
twenty-three statute miles an hour.
"The Challenger is a new boat,
launched only two weeks ago. In her first attempt for a speed trial at
Columbia Yacht Club last week, she ran against a submerged log,
steering gear, and had to be repaired. This accident prevented the boat
being sent to England last Saturday, as had been planned. W. Proctor
the firm sailed at that time, as he is to manage the boat in the coming
Harmsworth Cup race. This race will be held in the Solent, near the
Wight, on July 30. It will be the second competition for the cup. The
to autoboats practically what the Gordon Bennett Cup is to automobiles,
being restricted to three boats from each country. Last year America
entry, but this year Smith & Mabley made two entries. The smaller
the two, the Vingt-et-Un, it has been decided, will not be sent
The Challenger, after being repaired last week, went to the
Club last Saturday and then to the Indian Harbor Yacht Club on July 4
compete in the motor boat races held by those clubs, but owing to the
winds and rough water the Challenger only went once over the
course in the
Indian Harbor races and then, having shipped so much water, retired
"The boat is a trifle less than 40 feet
maximum length for a Harmsworth Cup competitor, and her horse power is
highest that an autoboat in this country has yet been equipped with,
one is now being built with 175 horse power, but the boat is over 60
Nearly all the forward part of the boat is occupied with the engine,
an eight-cylinder motor, and over forty gallons of gasoline can be
the gasoline tank had blown up there would have been nothing left of
or of any one in it at the time. She was not filled to her full
Although the Challenger was clearly the
fastest vessel in
the competition, a misadjusted set of points resulted in its
the first round of qualifying. The partner's redirected their effort to
& M Simplex automobile which was scheduled to appear at the St.
World's Fair. The Automobile's coverage of the firm's exhibit at the
World's Fair in the September 17, 1904 issue follows:
"The Renault exhibit under the auspices of
Mabley comprises a tonneau and a limousine car, both 1903 models, and
chassis, one of last year and one of 1904. The last-named chassis,
perhaps presents the finest specimen of refined workmanship and
design in the Show, embodies several features described in these pages
April 30. Chief among them is the location of the water radiator next
dash, and the use of an air-tight bonnet and a flywheel fan in such
to draw the air first through the radiator outside of the bonnet, then
again between the radiator and the dash into the interior of the
which the air is discharged downward and back through the fan blades on
flywheel. The frame of the Renault is of steel tithing, as usual, and
larger cars the side members are trussed. The rear axle is steadied
stresses due to driving and braking by two radius rods, whose front
at a common point in a spring socket attached to the frame, and
backward, one to the top and the other to the bottom of the case
the bevel gears. Thus one of the rods is always in tension. The service
is located at the front end of the short bevel driving pinion shaft,
close to the gear box as ordinarily. It is encased, and is operated by
torsional movement of a tube extending back from the brake pedal.
"The inlet valves in this and last year's
mechanically operated, and the lift of these valves is regulated by a
precisely similar to the De Dion exhaust valve regulator. The inlet
act on rollers at the ends of short oscillating fingers, and these
pivoted at their other ends to short arms connected with a rocking
controlled by hand. As this shaft is rocked the fingers are moved to or
the cams, and the effect is that they receive from the latter a greater
oscillation. Thus the motor is retarded independently of the governor.
"The Renault carbureter has one fixed inlet,
takes hot air from near the exhaust pipe, and a much smaller cold air
which is governed by a shutter regulated by hand. The governor control
comprises a cylinder shutter which throttles the mixture and is acted
on in the
regular way by the governor. The accelerator pedal when pressed down
throttle valve open, and in this position the governor lever merely
a spring which connects it with the throttle valve stem. The governor
encased, and in fact all of the working parts of the motor are
dust as thoroughly as possible. The cylinders are cast in pairs with
hand-hole at the top of the water jackets, which are covered by brass
down by studs.
"Ignition is by magneto, which is driven by
spiral gear to vary the time of the spark. The steering mechanism
bevel gear at the base of the steering shaft, meshing with a bevel
to-a nut which turns on a steep-pitch horizontal screw connected
through a link
to the right-hand steering knuckle."
Space for the Simplex was reserved, but the
to make the start of the Fair. The same issue of The Automobile (Sept.
1904) included a description of the Simplex racecar entered by Frank H.
that fall's Vanderbilt Cup Race:
"Entries for the first great American road
race came in
rapidly during the last few days before the list closed, and there are
eighteen machines scheduled to face the starter. The French entries
point of numbers, with six cars. Germany and the United States are to
represented by five cars each, and Italy by two 6o-horsepower Fiat
the late entries two are 6о-horsepower Mercedes cars belonging to E. R.
of New York, and Isadore Wormser; an 8o-horsepower de Dietrich, entered
Jarrige, New York agent for this make; the 6o-horsepower Renault, which
Brokaw has sent his driver, M. G. Bernin, to France to bring
here; a second four-cylinder Pope-Toledo; the Packard Gray
the Smith & Mabley Simplex racer just turned over to its purchaser,
Croker, son of Richard Croker, ex-Tammany boss.
"The entry of the Simplex, which will be
driven by its
owner, was received after the list had closed, and was saved only by
shaft by gears, and a fan behind the radiator comprise the cooling
"The frame of the car is of pressed steel of
form, tapered at the ends. The cross members are also of channel steel,
these are drilled out as much as possible to get rid of superfluous
axles are of steel of I-section, very strong, and are dropped
bring all of the heavy parts as low as possible. In this way the center
gravity has been brought very low, while plenty of clearance above the
left. The steering knuckles are particularly strong, although not so
they appear, being bored out as much as safety would permit. Wood
wheels are used, and the Michelin tires on the rear wheels are 920 by
millimeters and on the front wheels 910 by 90 millimeters. The
wheelbase is 106
1-2 inches and the tread standard. All wheels run on ball bearings—in
ball bearings are used throughout the car except in the motor, in which
bearings are plain. Almost all shafts are hollow.
"The transmission and differential are
enclosed in the
same casing. The four forward speeds are controlled by a single lever
right, while the reverse is thrown in by a lever on the left. The
gear locks automatically so that it cannot be meshed unless the forward
are clear, thus obviating the possibility of any mistakes in this
pedal-operated hand-brake acts on the differential and a lever operates
emergency brakes on the rear hubs in the usual way. A second pedal
clutch, which is of the internal type, the cone on the transmission
moving backwards, or away from the face of the wheel, to come into
Thus the thrust is almost eliminated while the clutch is engaged,
present to some extent when it is out. The spark and throttle levers
located at the top of the steering wheel, which is inclined at a sharp
from the horizontal, as usual in extreme racing cars. The levers are
to the throttle and spark timer through Bowden wires, which permit
be turned without the use of bell-cranks or similar devices.
"A peculiarity of this car, and one that
be appreciated by the driver and his mechanician before the long race
is that the occupants will sit with their feet in a sort of rectangular
thus being in a comfortable position and at the same time very low. The
is said to be sufficiently powerful to accelerate the car with great
and the gearing is of extraordinary strength, so that all the power can
transmitted without danger of breakage. The top speed of the car, when
for the race, will probably be about ninety miles an hour, and the
is such that the changing of gears is a simple matter. Owing to the
the cup course, it will be necessary for the racers to slow down
and a car that can accelerate with promptness will stand an excellent
making a good showing."
The October 8, 1904 issue of the Automobile
following brief mention of the Simplex' Vanderbilt Cup practice laps:
"A number of the racing cars went
over the course
on the Sunday preceding the race, and two slight mishaps
Frank Croker, while driving his 75-horsepower Smith & Mabley
twisted a transmission shaft and had to be towed to his garage. A new
inserted in place of the damaged one, however, and the car was very
running order again."
The December 7, 1904 issue of the Horseless
Age contained a
detailed review of the 70 h.p. Simplex chassis:
"In general design and detail construction
the Smith & Mabley touring car, manufactured by
the Smith & Mabley Manufacturing Company, of
city, follows closely the latest foreign practice. It embodies the
features of several of the more widely known makes and yet contains
originality in the refinement of details to acquire a character of its
the manufacturers leave the construction and style of the body entirely
purchaser and the body maker, we can confine ourselves herein to a
of the chassis…."
The January 12, 1905 New York Times notified
the public that
Panhard & Levassor had succumbed to the threats of the A.L.A.M.:
"NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC
"All users of gasoline automobiles and all
purchases are hereby notified:
"That there has been a complete surrender by
Panhard & Levassor Company, of Paris, France, and the members of
corporation who represent it in New York City to the rights of the
of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers under the Selden Patent, by the
recognition of the validity of the basic U. S. Letters Patent No.
granted to George B. Selden Nov. 5, 1895.
"A capitulation has been made also by the
American representatives of the Mercedes automobiles herein after
"In the future all Panhard Motor Cars
brought into the
United States by or through Panhard & Levassor or Smith &
all Mercedes Cars brought in by Allen, Halle & Co. through their
representatives, Smith & Mabley, all of New York City, will come in
licenses granted by the Electric Vehicle Company of Hartford, Conn.,
Selden Patent; with the authorization of the Association of Licensed
"Suits have been brought and vigorously
against the representatives of the Panhard and Mercedes cars for
of the basic Selden Patent No 549,160, by the unlicensed importation of
the cars named, and this
surrender now clears the way for these
makes of foreign automobiles to have
license-plates attached to them when sold by or cleared through the
"The royalties on all Mercedes and Panhard
heretofore brought in by the parties named since January 1, 1903,
adjusted, Selden license plates will be furnished the present owners of
cars upon application to the agents.
"Association of Licensed Auto Mfrs. 7 East
42d St., New
The April 5, 1905 New York Times
announced the pending
construction of Smith & Mabley's new Broadway garage and showroom:
"New Garage on Upper Broadway.
"The O. B. Potter Trust has leased
to Smith & Mabley a plot on the west
side of Broadway, between Fifty-sixth and Fifty-seventh Streets, having
frontage of 106 feet on Broadway and being 210 feet deep on one side.
Trust will erect on the site for the lessees a three-story garage. The
for a term of ten years and eight months from Sept 1, next at an
rental of $420,000."
Smith & Mabley's Broadway garage would
become the first
purpose-built structure constructed in what became known as Manhattan's
The Smith &
Mabley story is continued here
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